When I was very young I remember my father setting up the slide projector in our living room and showing me all the photos from his time he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. A Private First Class, he was a radar operator in a counter-artillery unit very close to the front lines. He saw a lot of insane things during his tour there and even had to deal with his best friend being killed…a true tragedy of war. Amidst all of that though were the amazing photos he shot while he was there. My father, an amateur photographer, really showed some skills with a camera, even with only the small equipment he was able to take with him. Camera technology in 1952 was a lot different than the high-tech equipment us photographers use today, but the basic rules all still applied…composition, aperture, shutter speed, etc. Except back in those days cameras used this stuff called “film” in order to preserve a photo…something today’s younger generation is quite unfamiliar with. 🙂
While I personally have never served in the armed forces, most of my friends had at one point in time or another. James, one of my childhood friends, later went on to graduate from the prestigious National War College. In my 20’s, one of my closest friends, Rob, was an ex-Marine. When I went to UNLV, a good friend of mine used to take me up in private planes while he was logging solo flight hours for his admission into the U.S. Navy. He later went on to graduate Top Gun and is currently still an F/A-18 Pilot. Today, most of my friends are either veterans or retired U.S. Military, serving our nation in careers ranging from flight squadron commanders to my friend Dee, military police officer. I have always had the utmost respect for those who give so generously for the defense of our great nation.
This got me to thinking several months ago about doing something to support our troops. I was doing a photo shoot with my friend Samantha, who I wrote about in a previous blog about the photos we got published in MyVegas Magazine. Prior to our shoot with her breathing fire at the Downtown Container Park, she and I worked on a cool pin up photo shoot, which has since been published in Fashion Bombshell Magazine. I really enjoyed doing a classic pin up shoot a lot, and I spent a lot of time researching the many different styles of pin up art and photography that has spanned many decades and trends, and after that shoot I really wanted to explore doing more creative styles of work in this genre even more.
That’s when it hit me. Being that pin up art is very deeply rooted in military culture, from tattoos soldiers would get while stationed overseas to the images pilots would paint on the sides their bombers, why not do a pin up calendar for charity as a way to support our troops?! I contacted a number of different charities to get some opinions on how I could support them with this type of project and the answer I kept hearing was, “Once you have produced the calendar, we will have our legal teams review the photos and get back to you.” OK, so I had to make the calendar first and then figure out who I was going to help with it later. No problemo!
The first thing I did was run casting calls all over the Internet looking for pin up models. I started doing this over the past summer, figuring it was going to take some time to do the shoots, handle the retouching and design work, assemble the calendar, etc. Two photos I wanted to use were already shot though. A few years ago I did a shoot for a client, Sigrid, for her and her brother. I emailed her and asked if I could use one of the photos for this project and she happily agreed. Another photo I shot of my friend Mariah. Having moved to Denver over a year ago, her and her husband were some of my go-to models whenever I needed fun, creative types to work with. Robert, her husband, is an ex-marine, so I emailed the two of them and asked if I could use one of the photos I shot of Mariah and they loved the idea. (Mariah and Robert were my “Joker” and “Batgirl” as featured in a previous blog from 2011). Some models I wanted to use I already knew though, such as my friend Lisa, and of course she referred me to another model, Dahlia, who was just a HUGE help on this project. Not only is Dahlia a professional pin up model but she really does live the lifestyle. Her entire wardrobe is made of vintage, 1930s and 1940s style clothing. Sarah, a regular in my blog, was a given…nobody I’ve ever worked with puts in as much effort to making a shoot perfect as she does. With her unique creativity, I KNEW I had to get her involved. I had a few shoot ideas in mind but a lot of the concepts were created as we were shooting on set. Some were shot on location, others in studio.
One thing I truly did not expect were the emails and calls of support from people wanting to help out on this project once they heard what it was for. Bill, a local firefighter emailed me and asked if I would like to use his 1950 fire engine for the shoot. Once I saw the photos of this fully restored beauty I just knew I had to use it for something and it is now the background for our August photo with the awesome local model Kalliann Haas, who I wrote about in a previous blog where we shot all around Lake Mead. A car aficionado, I love to go to local car shows and there are some classic car collectors who do meet-and-greets in my neighborhood every Sunday. While perusing through these gorgeous automobiles of yesteryear, I fell in love with this one white car, a 1937 Ford coupe. WOW was this car beautiful. I spoke with the owner, a military veteran, and told him my desire to use the car for a photo shoot and he was thrilled. So thank you VERY much David for the use of your vehicle…it is now on the cover of our calendar and also featured for September!
After many months of photo shoots and hours and hours of retouching and graphic work, the calendar was now ready. Now the question came into my mind of who would be a great charity to work with on this. There really are many wonderful organizations out there and many were recommended to me but one stood out more than any other, and that is the USO. After all, who would be able to identify more with this kind of thing than the USO?! The USO (United Service Organizations) was founded in 1941 as a non-profit organization to provide morale and recreational service to members of the U.S. military. The USO is best known for their live performances for troops around the world by such notable entertainers as Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Robin Williams, Lucille Ball, Lewis Black, Marilyn Monroe, Mark Wahlberg, and many others. But more importantly, they provide over 160 different locations around the world for military personnel and their families to visit for recreational down-time. They also aid in the transportation of fallen soldiers and comfort for families in dealing with such losses. Their airport lounges provide books, televisions, free snacks, and even quiet, comfort areas for soldiers to take a nap and relax before their flights.
A USO fundraising video from 1946, as hosted by Bob Hope
When I contacted the USO, I was surprised to learn that donations made locally stayed locally. That really piqued my interest a lot as it made me happy to know that donated funds wouldn’t get lost in some national shuffle…they would go right to the source that needed it if you so desired. I spoke with several great staff members at the USO and I was even offered a private tour of their facility at the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport location. I met with Tim Mullin, one of the two full-time staff members at the USO Las Vegas (everyone else works there strictly on a voluntary basis) and got to see first-hand some of the wonderful things they do for our soldiers passing through Las Vegas
After meeting with the staff of the USO and some of their amazing volunteers, I knew this was the right choice for this project.
So, effective November 25th, our 2015 calendar is complete and is now for sale! This is a large, 11X17” calendar printed on high-quality stock to showcase the awesome pin up beauties! You can get your copy for only $24.95 (plus shipping) and 100% of the profits will be donated to the USO Las Vegas. In 2013 the USO Las Vegas was awarded as being the top USO facility out of their 160 locations around the world and they hope to receive the same award for 2014, so you know that your contribution to this project is a great one.
Here are the photos that are included in the calendar:
MANY special thanks to the amazing models who donated their time, energy, and talents to making this project come together: Amy, Agatha, Dahlia, Kalliann, Lisa, Maria, Samantha, and Sigrid. I couldn’t have done it without you guys. Special thanks to the rest of my team from our photo assistants, makup artists, and to our classic vehicle owners as well.
These 2015 calendars will be on sale only for a few more weeks so to get your calendar, especially in time for Christmas, please order now before they are all gone!
In my over 15 years of being a professional photographer I’ve participated in some pretty crazy shoots. I’ve shot flash mobs in a mall, a wedding where a giant pig was part of the wedding procession, and once I did a seven-hour shoot of Lamborghini up in the mountains, during the middle of winter, at night, with no light. I’ve taken photos under gunfire, on top of sky scrapers, under water, you name it! I’ve done some of the craziest photo shoots you could imagine, but nothing prepared me for the two nights I shot stills for the television show, Vegas Strip, as seen on the TruTV network.
Vegas Strip is a spinoff of the show Cops, which is produced by the same company, Langley Productions. In the two nights I shot for Vegas Strip, I participated with a variety of different police officers with the arrests of two Jay Walkers and a burglary suspect, mounted police on horseback, the assistance of a homeless man who was suffering from alcohol poisoning from drinking an entire bottle of Lysterine, and the arrest of over a dozen prostitutes from just one Las Vegas hotel property. I was told it was a rather slow shoot by comparison to some of their others.
But aside from all the excitement, adrenalin, and notoriety these men and women in uniform receive from their job, deep down you can tell they really enjoy what they do. Walking the beat on the Las Vegas Strip, they are truly ambassadors of our city. When they aren’t breaking up a fight of drunken party-goers, they take pride in keeping Las Vegas safe and enjoy representing one of the coolest cities in the world.
Some of these police officers have gotten some celebrity status from their appearances on the Vegas Strip show, including Sergeant Tom Jenkins. Walking around, taking photos with him, I was quite surprised at how many people on the Strip recognized him from the show. I spent a lot of hours with the different officers and I found it interesting as to what their motivations were for being on television. Oddly enough, it wasn’t the fame or fortune. In fact, while it was fun sometimes to get noticed, many of these officers weren’t seeing themselves as celebrities and they certainly didn’t didn’t do it for the pay. In fact, none of these officers receive any extra pay or commendations for being on the show!
So why would they do it? Oddly enough, it’s the same reason the different police departments around the country love to participate with the show COPS…for the positive PR. “Us being on this show really does help our image a lot” one officer told me. “I’m sure it helps with recruitment but more importantly, people see what we do, understand that being a police officer isn’t always fun and games. But that all aside, let’s face it, Vegas is Vegas…we deal with situations here that just don’t exist anywhere else in the world and on that level, what better place to be a cop or to shoot a show like this!” So very true.
I’ve lived in Las Vegas my entire life. I grew up the son of a 30+ year veteran of the casino industry during the 70s and 80s and I thought I’ve heard a lot of stories and seen a lot of weird things. My 48 hours of shooting with the awesome production team and officers that participate with Vegas Strip really opened my eyes to an entirely new level of the heartbeat of Las Vegas. I’m already looking forward to my next shoot with these fine men and women of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department! Vegas Strip can be seen on the TruTV network, photographs to be seen in the near future on the Vegas Strip page on TruTV.com.
This is perhaps my most ambitious blog topic to date. To start the new year of 2012 I wanted to write about a topic to which I’ve been receiving a large number of emails about lately. The most recent of which arrived in my Inbox last month. Melinda from Atlantic City wrote, “Hi Adam. My husband and I are coming to Las Vegas next Spring for our anniversary and I want to hire you to take some photos of us around the Strip while we are there. I’m sold on your work but my husband has said that we have a good point-and-shoot camera we will be taking with us so what is the value of hiring a professional photographer? Please help me sell him on this!”
It’s an excellent question Melinda! While I can go on and on about the technical details of professional equipment and my years of experience in photography, I thought it would be best to actually show you the difference. To do so, I decided to conduct an experiment with the sole purpose of answering this question. To do so I setup a series of photo shoots up and down the Las Vegas Strip, just as I do with the many dozens of couples, birthday parties, and bachelor/bachelorette parties I shoot all year long. This time, I made use of a professional model as my muse.
This is Crystel Rivera. She is a professional model here in Las Vegas and perhaps one of the most talented and professional ones I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. A Las Vegas native, Crystel started go-go dancing in the major casino nightclubs when she was 18 and fell into modeling at the same time. She has been featured in FHM Magazine, on Penn & Teller’s show “BS!” on Showtime, and currently works as a Playboy Bunny at the Palms Hotel & Casino. (At the time of this blog, Crystel is redoing her website but if you are interested in booking her for an event or photo shoot, you can do so via email at email@example.com).
To conduct the experiment I would photograph Crystel in different poses in different locations. While I do have lots of high-end, portable lighting equipment which I frequently use on the Strip, I decided to keep this simple and only shoot Crystel with the photographic equipment I could carry in a camera bag.
Here is the fun part of the experiment comes in. I also brought along a small, point-and-shoot camera as well. Specifically the Samsung ST100. It’s an outstanding little camera I bought for my wife and it takes wonderful photos. Amazon.com gives it a 4.5 out of 5 stars and while we paid much more for it over a year ago when it was new, it currently sells for $234.94, making it a mid-priced camera it its class.
Here are the rules I set for this experiment. So that I can remain an impartial person in this test, I handed the point-and-shoot camera to a complete stranger on the street and asked them to photograph Crystel. These strangers would give her direction to pose and then take as many photos as they liked until they were satisfied with the results. They would take her photo using fully automatic settings in the point-and-shoot, just as the vast majority of people do when they use their own cameras on vacation. I would then go and take a photo of my own of Crystel in the same location but utilize my over 15 years of experience in working with models and using top-notch professional camera gear to get my own result. Crystel was instructed not to add too many creative poses for the different photographers but to take direction from whomever was shooting her to get the resulting photos. So I present to you the side-by-side comparison of both shots in each location. One shot by an amateur with amateur equipment, one shot with a professional with professional equipment. All the "Before" photos were left as-is, as your average person does not have access to advanced retouching tools as I do such as Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, as well as all the other plugins, filters, and after effect tools. What you will see first is the image captured by the amateur followed by the photo taken by myself and retouched as if it were one of my clients. In some cases you'll see more than one image from me as I was able to get a bit more creative in the results from some locations. Let’s take a look at the results!
PHOTOS AT BELLAGIO
PHOTOS AT CAESARS PALACE
PHOTOS AT THE MIRAGE
THE "WELCOME TO LAS VEGAS" SIGN
DOWNTOWN LAS VEGAS – FREMONT STREET EXPERIENCE
The photos pretty much explain my point for me. The ones with the Samsung point-and-shoot camera took some fairly good photos at times, but in most cases the images were washed out, devoid of any emotion or depth, or just created bad photographs. I was recently doing a photo shoot for the television show Vegas Strip (seen on TruTV) and I was shooting some photos of one of Las Vegas' Finest for the show. I got some really creative shots with him and his squad car on the Strip and when I showed him what I shot in the camera he said, "Wow, your camera takes really good photos" to which I responded with, "Yeah, and the guy behind it had a little something to do with it too" and we had a good laugh. Part of the reason I wanted to hand the smaller camera over to a stranger on the street was to prove that many people take snapshots whereas a professional photographer with years of experience knows how to take a camera and capture a moment…create a memory as it were.
With the advancements of digital photography, picture-taking is more prevalent in society now than ever before. Chances are that if you probably have a camera in your mobile phone plus an additional camera somewhere in your home. Most people are familiar with posting their photos to Flickr or Facebook nowadays without even a second thought. And while we live in a society of shutterbugs, many people often lose sight in the importance of hiring a professional photographer for their events, their businesses, or even their vacations. I often tell my clients that a person with a cell phone creates a fun photo for Facebook, a professsional photographer creates something to hang on the wall.
Before writing this blog, I sent these photos over to Melinda, the woman from Atlantic City I mentioned in the opening of this blog entry and she showed them to her husband. We are now booked to shoot her Anniversary photos in April. If you are coming to Las Vegas for any important event or even just to capture some awesome souvenir photos on the Strip, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me directly at 702-204-1740 for questions and availability.